Written by Dr. Ken Mahanes, outgoing Vice President of Religious Life at Palm Beach Atlantic University.
I would like to offer a personal perspective to the recent decision of the president to eliminate the position of Vice President for Religious Life and the concomitant “dissolving of the department of Religious Life by reassigning staff positions to other existing departments” as was announced in a list/serv to PBA staff and faculty on Thursday, April 30.
I am probably the most naïve person in the universe because I really thought once the announcement was made public, we would all move on. However, I was told by several friends that there was a Beacon and Bacon article with numerous comments and even a Facebook page announcing a demonstration opposing the actions of the administration.
Because of my preoccupation with other matters, I did not look at any of these sources until now. As of today, May 4, I have read all of the postings on the Bacon, the news story in the Beacon, and the comments on the Facebook page.
First, I would like to offer some clarifications:
– The comment by one reader in the Bacon that I am retiring is inaccurate. Mark Twain once said in response to reading his own obituary in the newspaper: “The report of my death is greatly exaggerated.” The report of my retirement (or that I had expressed a desire to leave PBA) is not only greatly exaggerated, it is simply not true.
– I do not work at PBA only 5 months out of the year as another respondent to the Bacon article wrote, which brought a smile to my face. If I did, I’d have a job that even Donald Trump would be envious of (I am aware that I ended that sentence with a preposition – my apologies to English majors). To set the record straight, I serve at PBA on a 12 month contract and as a vice president I serve at the pleasure of the president to whom I am directly accountable. For the past two years, I have also served as a seasonal pastor (about six and a half months of the year) at Lost Tree Chapel on Singer Island with the president’s consent and encouragement.
– In reply to a couple of comments about my income, my primary income and all of my benefits such as health insurance are provided by PBA. Supplemental income from Lost Tree Chapel has been placed in retirement funds, most of which have gone down the toilet (excuse the crude analogy) during the past two years.
– To clarify another comment in the Bacon, I did not learn of the president’s decision through an e-mail. I apologize if I left anyone under that impression. Rather, Dr. Clark talked with me personally on April 2 and gave me a written memorandum informing me of his decision. The information was not made public until April 30 via e-mail, which is the standard practice for making such announcements.
I want to thank so many students and colleagues who have made positive and affirming comments to me personally or in writing since the announcement of my departure was made last Thursday. My favorite was a card slipped under my door by a professor and several of his students that was down-right funny, but very meaningful to me.
Let me, also, make very clear: the decision not to hold a farewell reception for me, but rather to request that individuals express their kind thoughts and words personally by cards or calls, was made at my insistence and was not the decision of Dr. Clark.
Additionally, I respect Dr. Clark’s authority to terminate with or without cause those of us who report directly to him and to initiate administrative changes such as the restructuring of Religious Life.
I am confident that the decision of the president to eliminate my position, which resulted in my termination, was not easy for him. I have been in his position before and have had to make unpopular and controversial decisions to terminate staff both in my role as a pastor of a multi-staff church and in my administrative positions as a dean, a vice president and interim president at PBA.
Unfortunately, this unpleasant responsibility comes with the turf and is the price of leadership. In light of the financial exigencies of the University, I fully understand the president’s attempt to fulfill his fiduciary responsibility as the Chief Executive Officer accountable to the Board of Trustees of the University by taking the action that he has.
Finally, I am sincere in not wanting to be the source of dissent or disruption at this time. Therefore, in deference to my personal wishes, I am asking that the planned gathering on the Rinker Green on Tuesday morning be cancelled.
Though I deeply appreciate and am honored by the intentions of students and others, I do not want anything to detract from focusing on Dr. and Mrs. Clark who have served PBA faithfully for the past six years or to interfere with the celebration of the graduating seniors and their families this week.
I am grateful for the opportunities Dr. Clark has given me and the generosity he has shown me during the past six years of my 11 years at PBA. I feel no ill-will towards him for his recent decision. To the contrary, I wish for him and Lois the very best in the years ahead.
Finally, I love PBA and have great optimism for its future and will continue to pray for and financially support the University as I encourage others to do as well.
– Ken Mahanes